Afternoon Edition: March 23, 2022

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Afternoon Edition: March 23, 2022
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Nurse Tamara Jones checks on a patient with COVID-19 and on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit at Roseland Community Hospital on the Far South Side, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition


Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with scattered thunderstorms and a high near 57 degrees. Tonight will be cloudy with showers likely, possible thunderstorms and a low around 39. Tomorrow will likely showers, mainly in the early morning, and a high near 43.

Top story

Nearly 19,000 more deaths in Cook County: The pandemic’s toll, two years in

Over the past two years, nearly 19,000 more people have died in Cook County than what would have been expected — a figure that demonstrates the enormous toll of the pandemic since the virus claimed its first life here in March 2020.

While COVID-19 has killed nearly 1 million people across the U.S., the data also shows the pandemic corresponded with a spike in local deaths from other causes, including heart disease, drug overdoses and shootings, according to an analysis of county, state and federal statistics as part of an ongoing collaboration between the Sun-Times and the Documenting COVID-19 project at Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and MuckRock.

In a normal, pre-pandemic year in Cook County, between 40,000 and 42,000 people die, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data. But in 2020, that figure topped 52,000. In 2021, it remained high, at more than 47,000.

The additional deaths over the last two years, an estimated 18,849, amount to a city the size of west suburban Bellwood.

And the death count will likely stay at an unusually high level in 2022, with the first two months’ worth of data showing similar trends.

The Cook County numbers mirror what national studies have found but are still stunning nevertheless, experts say.

Kyra Senese and Smarth Gupta have more on these tragic losses here.

More news you need

  1. A trucker who had been told he was going to be fired went to his workplace in Burr Ridge yesterday and fatally shot his former boss, then went to another former employer and wounded a co-worker before taking his own life, police said today. The series of shootings began yesterday when Jeremy Jerome Spicer entered Winner’s Freight logistics company and shot his former boss, according to authorities.
  2. Three weeks after the indictment of former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, federal prosecutors told a judge they want to keep their Sept. 12 trial date in a related bribery case that involves Madigan co-defendant Michael McClain. But in a surprise move during a status hearing today, McClain’s defense attorney told a judge that the defendants in that case would prefer to have it go forward as a bench trial.
  3. Former state Rep. Edward “Eddie” Acevedo is set to be sentenced today for cheating on his taxes in a prosecution that resulted from the same investigation that led to Madigan’s recent indictment. Acevedo, 58, pleaded guilty to tax evasion in December.
  4. A Saint Anthony Hospital employee has been charged with sexually abusing two of his patients, as authorities ask for other possible victims to come forward. In court today, county prosecutors said the 30-year-old was working as a patient care technician at the hospital when he sexually abused two women under his care.
  5. Ann Claire Williams, a retired judge who was the first Black woman to sit on Chicago-based federal district and appellate courts, will testify on behalf of Ketanji Brown Jackson tomorrow, the last day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Williams’ storied career as a trailblazer speaks volumes as the Senate considers Jackson, who, if confirmed, will make history as the first Black female on the Supreme Court, our Lynn Sweet explains.
  6. Chicago Public Schools officials won’t extend this school year to make up the five days of canceled classes during January’s standoff with the Chicago Teachers Union, CEO Pedro Martinez announced. The decision means teachers won’t get paid for that missed time, a sore spot for educators who were upset to lose nearly a week of pay without gaining much in COVID safety negotiations.
  7. A City Council member accused Mayor Lori Lightfoot today of “stacking the deck” by appointing a special committee to handle the Chicago casino proposal process composed only of her handpicked leadership team. A day after Lightfoot announced she had narrowed the list of potential casino sites, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez said he believes the “fix is in” for a South Loop casino in his ward and Lightfoot’s chosen committee will only ratify that choice.
  8. A Chicago developer with plans for a $33 million project in West Humboldt Park says the building’s proposed features, including solar panels and triple-paned windows, would aim to slash residents’ utility bills. A.J. Patton, CEO of 548 Development, said he is planning a 60-unit housing development and a ground-floor grocery.
  9. Chicago-based Cresco Labs is set to acquire Columbia Care Inc. in a $2 billion deal expected to create one of the nation’s largest cannabis production and retail companies. Cresco has retail outlets, known as Sunnyside, in seven states; Columbia operates in 16 states and Washington, D.C.
  10. Businessman and mayoral candidate Willie Wilson is gearing up to pump $1 million worth of gas into the cars of Chicagoans and says the traffic jams his last effort caused won’t be repeated. Beginning at 7 a.m. tomorrow, Wilson will pay to pump $50 worth of gas into cars at 48 different stations in Chicago and nearby suburbs.

A bright one

Lesley Nicol journeys from childhood to ‘Downton Abbey’ in engaging one-woman show

Lesley Nicol — aka Mrs. Patmore from the blockbuster TV series “Downton Abbey”— was the sort of solemn, shy, bespectacled child who looked like she was 50 in her first-grade picture.

So Nicol recalls, pointing to a grade-school photo that proves it, in her one-woman-plus-a-pianist show “How the Hell Did I Get Here?,” now making its North American tour kickoff at the Greenhouse Theater Center.

For the non-Downtonites, Mrs. Patmore is the chief cook in the “Upstairs/Downstairs”-style series and subsequent movie about life on a post-Edwardian-era English estate. Mrs. Patmore serves as something of a moral, working-class conscience for the lavish drama — a salt-of-the-earth, maternal presence beloved by almost everyone on the show.

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Through the use of stories, songs and projections, actress Lesley Nicol takes the audience on her life’s journey in “How the Hell Did I Get Here?”

Michael Brosilow

With a roster of upbeat original songs composed by Mark Mueller (who also accompanies Nicol on the piano) and a script penned by both, the 80-minute “musical autobiography” takes audiences from the actor’s childhood through her years in the “Downton” ensemble.

Nicol has enough belt to get the job done and an ear that keeps things melodic as she weaves humorous tunes about self-doubt, success and celebrity between monologues that are part stand-up comedy, part poignant storytelling, writes our Catey Sullivan in her review of the production.

For “Downton Abbey” fans, the show is a must-see. But even for those who don’t know Lady Mary from Lady Godiva, “How the Hell Did I Get Here?” is an engaging look at the life of an artist.

Sullivan has more in her ‘How the Hell Did I Get Here’ review here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

Who are three Chicago artists you’d like to see headline a music festival here this summer?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What do you think of this year’s Lollapalooza lineup? Explain.

Here’s what some of you said…

“Actually a pretty good lineup! Glass Animals, Dominic Fike, Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, Kygo, Tove Lo, Kaskade. I wasn’t planning on going but I might now that I know who will be there.” — Kellie Gaustad

“Not my favorite. Oh well, maybe next year.” — Kathryn Eret Kinder

“It’s mediocre. The act to see is Billy Strings he is great.” — Erin Eileen

“I was floored to see ticket prices topping out at $4,200!?! Wow.” — Christine Bock

I would go just to see Wet Leg!” — Bob Back

“Meh. I would only want to see Metallica and Green Day.” — Jackie Waldhier

“A lot of hype artists or artists I’ve never heard of. I’d only go for J. Cole, Cordae and Joyner Lucas.” — Richard Colón Jr.

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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